(MINEOLA, N.Y.) - Fueled in part by the irrational, false, and unfounded association of specific ethnic groups with the spread of the COVID-19 virus, violent attacks and bias incidents against Asian-American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community have increased at an alarming rate in New York and throughout the country. In a recent examination of hate crimes in 16 of America’s largest cities, the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino discovered that, while hate crimes in 2020 decreased overall by 7 percent, those targeting the AAPI community have surged by nearly 150 percent.
In response to these unacceptable developments, Nassau County Legislator Arnold W. Drucker (D – Plainview) today unveiled legislation that would give victims new tools for asserting and affirming their rights in civil court.
Under Legislator Drucker’s proposed local law, the County’s Human Rights Law would be amended to specifically outlaw discrimination based on an actual or perceived relationship to the COVID-19 pandemic. Victims of such discrimination and the County Attorney would be empowered to sue for compensatory and punitive damages, attorney’s fees and other relief deemed appropriate by the court.
Furthermore, individuals who violate the COVID-19 discrimination ban would be subject to civil penalties of $5,000 to $25,000 per incident, which would be recoverable and payable to the aggrieved victim. Additional fines - of $5,000 - $10,000 for a first offense and $10,000 to $20,000 for subsequent offenses - can also be levied.
“At previous moments in our history, we did not do enough to confront this kind of pernicious bigotry, and the shame of the Chinese Exclusion Acts and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II continue to reverberate throughout our history,” Legislator Drucker said. “Thankfully the good in Americans is prevailing to confront this recent scourge against our Asian brothers and sisters as we have seen our elected leaders stand up and not just speak out against this hatred, but have proposed new laws designed to criminally prosecute and punish these purveyors of hatred and vitriol.”
Legislator Drucker introduced the proposed local law on Wednesday, April 7 with the unanimous backing of his Minority Caucus colleagues as cosponsors. Subsequent testimony during an April 8 Legislature hearing focused upon anti-Asian hate crimes fortified Legislator Drucker’s commitment to pursuing a local legislative remedy - one that has since gained the support of Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and leaders of local of AAPI community organizations.
“Nassau County is standing together against the rising tide of Anti-Asian hatred,” County Executive Curran said. “Although there have been no reported hate crimes targeting Asians in Nassau, tools must be in place for enforcement and for victims to pursue justice. I thank Legislator Drucker for introducing this legislation, which will strengthen Nassau's efforts to ensure all residents are protected and respected."
“This bill is an active step to curb the surge of violence against Asian Americans and produce repercussions for perpetrators of anti- Asian violence,” said Farrah Mozawalla, Executive Director of Nassau County’s Office of Asian-American Affairs. “It is prescribing a whole new area of action for victims of COVID 19-related hate crimes in Nassau County. “
“On behalf of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Nassau County, I offer sincere thanks to Legislator Drucker, the co-sponsors of this Bill, and County Executive Laura Curran for their work in fighting discrimination and supporting our community in this meaningful and substantive way,” said Shany Park, a Syosset parent and member of the Korean American Friends of Syosset. “Our hope is that Nassau County will be a community where the most vulnerable feel safe, where neighbors can work together and celebrate our diverse backgrounds, and where all our children can feel a sense of belonging. We are hopeful that this bill will help bring us closer to this brighter vision for our community.”
“Hate inspired crimes or violence have no place in our society, and we must all stand up firmly to denounce these actions when we see them. I stand in solidarity with our neighbors and friends in the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities who are dealing with this rise in hate across the country. We see you and are here to help,” said New York State Assembly Member Michaelle Solages, Chair of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus.
“I proudly support this bill sponsored by my good friend Legislator Arnold Drucker which safeguards the rights of Asian Americans in Nassau County,” said New York State Assembly Member Charles D. Lavine, Chair of the Assembly’s Judiciary Committee. “Discrimination of any kind against any individual in our community is considered an act against us all and will not be tolerated.”
PHOTO CREDITS - Office of Nassau County Legislator Arnold W. Drucker